By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
At its core, the Detroit Project is about raising awareness — regardless of what kind. Its founders meant to start a national conversation, and they did. "These ladies have figured out a way to break this issue open," says NRDC president John Adams, "and it's caused an enormous debate throughout the country. I think what they're doing is going to change the course of history."
Tonight, there's not a stretch limo in sight. And there is a green, rather than red, carpet — a 200-foot-long, politically correct tongue of sorts, illuminated by floodlights and rolled out to greet the rich and famous. Which is fitting, since it's the Rolling Stones appearing at Staples Center — a free concert sponsored by the NRDC to raise awareness about global warming in a way that, as one concert organizer put it, "gets the issue off the science page and in people's faces." It's the largest such event the NRDC has ever coordinated — nearly 150,000 people competed online for 12,000 free tickets. E!, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood — they're all here. Along with newspapers and magazines from the French press, the U.K. and Australia. More than 50 celebrities will arrive in donated, chauffeur-driven hybrids, and a media mob waits, restless and stirring, behind a shiny metal barrier that runs alongside the green carpet.
When Laurie and Larry show up, the couple clicks into a well-oiled routine — she's the more "adult" straight man to his funny, high-speed kvetcher. Laurie moves leisurely, effortlessly, down the green carpet, smiling and stopping for interviews, then interjecting a line about the ozone layer. Or the absurdity of tax credits and loopholes that have helped to create the so-called "SUV explosion." Larry, in a beige corduroy jacket and sneakers, is less focused, slightly amused, even a bit shy. "Larry, E!" "Larry, over here!" the reporters call out, stretching their long mikes and unwieldy rubber cords over the metal barrier — looking, collectively, like a giant, multilegged insect flipped on its back. When he wanders ahead, Laurie snaps, "Larry! Wait!" He returns to her side, and she softens up, smiling at him affectionately.
"Larry, are you a Stones fan?" shouts a TV reporter.
"Do you know any of their songs?"
"What's one that you like?"
"Uh . . . 'Blowin' in the Wind'?"
Meanwhile, Cameron Diaz is trying to get her lips around the largest chocolate-covered strawberry ever to be presented on a dessert tray. The pre-concert VIP party is a People magazine editor's dream: Rita Wilson, Pierce Brosnan, Christine Lahti, Bill Maher, Peter Gordon, Governor Davis. Behind the bar, a bank of televisions shows live footage of DiCaprio getting out of his hybrid car and stepping onto the green carpet. David works the room as if it were her family's annual Seder, facilitating introductions, making connections. One minute, she's leaning over Lisa Kudrow's table; the next, she's welcoming Diaz or casually strolling with Bill Clinton, laughing, chatting, oblivious to the excitement that surrounds them.
The former president doesn't venture much farther than the entrance hallway — he doesn't have to. A throng of people is pushing to get near him — a mosh pit of stars, politicians and other guests held off by security men in blue blazers. This goes on for a while: Clinton thrusting out his arm to greet old friends and nodding at others who can't get close enough. A slender, pretty woman — who, until now, has been hanging back by the wall — steps forward: "
Hi, I'm Mira Sorvino" she says sweetly. Clinton lingers a little longer than usual, making extraordinary eye contact.
In a sort of James Bond-meets-Mark Wahlberg/Rock Star moment, Brosnan and Clinton pause by the black curtain separating them from the arena. As bluesy solo artist Susan Tedeschi finishes her set, Brosnan puts his hand on Clinton's shoulder, nods toward the curtain and says, "We have fans out there . . ." As in: It's time for the president to make his way downstairs and introduce the Stones. Many thank-yous and references to global warming, solar power and cleaner car engines later: "Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest rock & roll band of all time!"
The awareness event morphs into pure stadium rock — 15,000 rumbling, hooting, foot-stomping fans, cigarette lighters held up high. Then Mick Jagger appears onstage, in purple iridescent jacket and tight black jeans, still pushing the envelope — in this case, age. "Really nice to be here, innit a good cause and all that," he shouts, and the band jumps into "Start Me Up."
The Laurie David Group — her sister and niece, Rob Reiner and wife, close friends who've flown in from out of town for the concert — occupies the front row, stage left. Larry is gone after two or three songs ("What can I say, he's not a rock & roller . . ."), but Laurie is slumped down in her chair, feet up on the railing, slamming her head to "Brown Sugar" and receiving passing "visitors" on their way out: Huffington, Lahti, NRDC board members. Toward the end of the night, Jagger leaps off the stage and struts down the runway shaking hands and high-fiving; the band finishes off the last 15 minutes on an elevated podium in the center of the floor, surrounded by NRDC logos.